The Ohio High School Athletic Association board of directors approved in late April to increase the number of playoff qualifiers and change the format of the regional playoffs starting this season.
The number of playoff qualifiers will expand to 16 schools per region, twice the amount previously eligible. In addition, the higher seeded team will host first and second round playoff games, instead of only the first round, before neutral sites are used beginning with the regional semifinals. In the first round, the No. 16 seed will play at the No. 1 seed, the No. 15 seed will play at the No. 2 seed, etc.
The expansion comes one year after the OHSAA announced it was expanding playoff eligibility from eight teams to 12 teams per region starting this season. The association later made all teams eligible for the playoffs in 2020, citing COVID-19.
“Last fall we received overwhelmingly positive feedback when we allowed every team to enter the football playoffs due to the shortened season because of COVID-19,” OHSAA executive director Doug Ute said in a news release. “We know there are some who want to keep the football postseason to a smaller number of schools, but the postseason tournament gives such a positive experience for our student-athletes, the schools and their communities that we felt strongly about giving that opportunity to more schools to make the playoffs. And football remains the only OHSAA sport in which not every team automatically qualifies for the postseason.”
The OHSAA is also exploring adding a strength of schedule component to the Harbin computer ratings, which are used to determine the playoff qualifiers. A strength of schedule component could be added in 2022.
The site of the state championship games has not yet been determined, but the format will include one game Thursday, Dec. 2, and two games each on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 3-5.
During the regional semifinals and finals at neutral sites, the higher seeded team will be the designated home team. The OHSAA then determines the sites and matchups for the state semifinals.
The expansion will increase the number of football playoff qualifiers from 224 to 448.
During the first five rounds of the playoffs, Division I, II, III and IV schools will play Friday nights, while Division V, VI and VII schools will play Saturday nights.
First round playoff games are scheduled for Oct. 29-30. The first Friday of the regular season is Aug. 20.
OHSFCA critical of playoff expansion
The Ohio High School Football Coaches Association issued a strong rebuke of the OHSAA’s playoff expansion decision in late April.
The OHSFCA said in a statement the decision is financially motivated.
“The decision by the OHSAA to expand to a 16 team playoff format is met with complete dismay by the OHSFCA,” the association wrote. “The OHSAA failed to work in good faith with our association.
“The OHSFCA worked for over two years to create a viable expansion of the playoff system. The OHSFCA proposed the playoff expansion to 12 teams in January of 2020. The OHSAA approved this expansion in the spring of 2020 for the 2021 season. We are extremely disappointed in yesterday’s vote by the OHSAA without consulting the OHSFCA.
“…The OHSFCA remains committed to working with the OHSAA and anyone else who is committed to maintaining the high standards of Ohio High School Football.”
It’s the second time in the last year the OHSAA has drawn the ire of the OHSFCA. The football coaches association criticized the OHSAA last summer for making all teams eligible for postseason play in 2020.